Monday, June 25, 2012

Coming out of the Self-Shell

Forewarning: I'm struggling with how to adequately write this post. So please forgive me if I ramble a bit here.

I look back at the time from when we found out about Annabelle's heart defect till now, and I see a lot of "self" seasons.

There were seasons when in order to survive through the day, I shut out everything around me and focused on only surviving that day, that moment. The one-foot-in-front-of-another times.

TMI alert: I get that way in labor. It's kind of a funny joke with us, when I was in labor with Karalynn, I wasn't a yeller or a screamer. I needed quite. Everyone had to shut up and not utter a word or sound while I closed my eyes and focused only one one thing: getting through the moment.

I got that way after Annabelle was born for a while, especially after she took her bad spell. I banished everyone from me except close family, and even they needed to tiptoe. I'm super ashamed that it included even my own children, who I allowed to visit only once per week for a while, and even then, limited my time with them severely. I just physically could not handle anything more. I was focused on getting through, on getting Annabelle better. Anything more than that, and I would crash.

Now, looking back, I know that a large portion of that was post-partum stuff combined with the extreme stress of having a super sick baby. It doesn't make it okay, but makes it understandable.

Everyone seemed to understand, too. Most everyone encouraged me to "take care of yourself" and to "focus on Annabelle." And I did.

But there was a turning point that I remember very clearly. I was coming back to Annabelle's room, and there was this woman standing beside Annabelle's door crying. I set my stuff down, and gave her a hug. Her son had just taken a bad turn, and her husband wasn't at the hospital to be with her.

I discovered this great thing called: A Support Group.

Oh, it was informal and all. They called Tosha (James' Momma), Melissa (Anna Reese's Momma) and I the three musketeers. We ate together when we could, visited each other's rooms when we could (and a few times when we couldn't... shhhhhhhh...) and just generally were there for each other. Not only did I need someone to vent to about everything with Annabelle, I needed to finally break out of my shell and help someone else with theirs.

Even when one of their shell's came crashing down, when James went to be with Jesus. My heart has never ached as much as it did that day as I hugged my sweet friend and stood by as they did the unimaginable, said goodbye to their brave little fighter.

I won't lie, though. I wasn't cured of my self-shell affliction.

In fact, for a reason I can't really name, I did the same thing this Spring. Combined with the stress of coming home after a 12 day hospital stay, then Annabelle's heart cath a month later, as well as physical issues of my own, I hopped back in my shell and dared anyone to come close.

I talked about the struggle a little bit here. But in normal Krista fashion, I didn't realize how "bad" I was until I look back in a slightly more sane frame of mine. I remember at one point and time, I went a good three weeks without doing laundry. My kids were picking through the dirty laundry for clothes to wear to school. Yeah, how is THAT for a confession.

I was down to the "must do" only mode, which included making sure everyone ate something, kids went to school, Annabelle's meds were done, and a few other things my brain felt were critical.

This is Krista's crisis mode. The problem was... there wasn't really a crisis, except that Momma had lost her ever-lovin' mind.

In a sane moment, I realized this and with a lot of prayer, did a few things to try and help blast this. (Inspired my Simplifying Me posts for a while...)

And it helped. I'm not perfect. My house is still messier than it should be most days. I don't prioritize how I should, but my head is peaking out of my shell and I'm taking a few deep cleansing breaths.

I'm also realizing that my shell that I've sequestered myself in is getting really stinky and musty and needs some airing out.

God, in his awesome fashion, has given me some thoughts as to how.

WRITE. NOW.

While I love to write, my purpose in doing so isn't to just please myself, even though things like writing this blog are very cathartic for me. (for those who wonder how I have time to blog when I have so many other things taking up my time... that's why. Writing, in whatever form, is like a needed vent-hole in my very busy, fast-paced brain.)

But for my novels, I write first and foremost to please God. It's a hope that God can use my stories to impact lives, whether it is in the things my characters deal with or simply in providing a needed fun story when a laugh is needed.

While I had worked on my writing, it had gotten shoved aside a bit. I was excited about all the NEW things going on with Sandwich on its road to publication, but I had stalled out there.

But I've picked back up the ministry God has given me (not that I had put it down... just pushed it back in priority.) I've caught up on many things and am finishing up editing a book to send to my agent to get her thoughts on it. The book has this amazing theme that has always been a constant struggle for me: Fear. What God wants to do with it is up to Him.

GIVE BACK. NOW.

I've always been in awe of those who give back. There are so many things people do to "help" the cause of supporting CHD families, supporting research, and raising awareness for Congenital Heart Defects as well Organ Donation.

Besides my efforts here on my blog, I've always said in my head, "Later." It was one task I didn't have time/energy/means to tackle.

I'm still not 100% sure what all to do. I have a lot of ideas that are still in the "someday" category.

But I HAVE thought of an idea I want to do now, and I'm SUPER SUPER excited about it!

If you don't realize, Annabelle's birthday is coming up. Less than a month away!!! My baby is gonna be TWO! Holy cow!

Here is the thing: Besides a few toys for "outside" that Mommy and Daddy have already gotten and put "away," Annabelle doesn't need anything.

She has toy town here that I've stocked from birthday gifts last year, Christmas, and garage sales. I kinda went overboard with it, trying to get her toys that will help with what she was working on in her therapy appointments.

So yeah, I don't even have ROOM to put another toy in here for her!

And as much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE dressing her in super cute clothes (and still go to the stores and drool and dream on occasion... dressing girls is FUN!) she has a closet and dresser full. She really doesn't need any more.

An idea hit me then: What if, instead of giving gifts to Annabelle, we instead asked anyone who wanted to, to donate items to help kiddos like Annabelle who are currently IN the hospital.

I've been where those Mommas and Daddy's are. Sometimes, on a super bad day, there is nothing like getting a little gift for my baby. Whether it was from someone who came to visit, or someone from church, or something donated to our cardiac babies, it made me smiled. It made me know that someone cared and was thinking about us.

I haven't completely formulated how it will work. More details will come later for those who want to honor Annabelle's two-year celebration of life and help us "give back' in this way. But for the first time in a long time, my heart is bubbling with excitement.

Because it isn't about me. It isn't even all about Annabelle. It's about being a servant. It's about being Jesus to those who are hurting and just need something to make them smile. It's about doing something knowing that there will be nothing in return, just the knowledge that you did something to help another.

Joy comes in the morning. I think I see a sunrise, hm?

**Annabelle Update**

Just wanted to add... Annabelle continues to improve. Feeds are still a major issue but improving slowly. Pain is getting better, only gave pain meds once yesterday. She's still having a LOT of spit in her mouth. Most of the time it just shows up in way of drool, but she also starts to choke on it at times, which scares Momma. I think it'd help if she would eat and USE the spit... but she's currently terrorized at the sight of food coming toward her mouth. Feeding therapy -- meet step back.

Still on night oxygen. Supposed to keep it on her until we have a followup sleep study. BUT. Our pulmonology appointment isn't until the END OF FREAKIN' AUGUST. And then they have to schedule the sleep study, and last time they were scheduling it THREE months out. Yeah. Momma has a few phone calls to make next week to see if we can get something changed about this, because I really don't like keeping her on oxygen she might not even need for five months. I really don't like it at all.

So yeah, Joy comes in the morning... but so does Momma's crackin' her knuckles and takin' names:-)

7 comments:

April W Gardner said...

"It's all about being a servant."
God's greatest gifts come through pain. You're a blessing to me.

Ramona Richards said...

I don't think you realize and accept how much you GAVE by doing this blog all along. Your readers were glued to the updates. You showed us grace under pressure, and the honest transparency of lives under trial. Your coping skills are phenomenal (yes, even the "self-shell), and where you say you "failed" are moments when you dealt with life by naming priorities, even though you couldn't do it all. (And I know the laundry thing will show up in one of your books one day.)

I'm constantly explaining to folks the nature of a "caregivers breakdown," and I think caregivers have one of the hardest roads ever to travel. You've traversed yours (flaws and all) with love and deep devotion to God and your family. I really do suggest you put the "shouldas" in a box and set it on a shelf.

Valerie said...

THIS! EXACTLY THIS, KP!!!

Krista Phillips said...

I guess to clarify... while I don't *like* that I do it... I do know that it is one way we all cope and sometimes NEED to cope. But... I'm finding it too easy to STAY in my own little shell even when it is not crisis mode, and it's just plain not healthy for me. I FEEL bad about myself when I'm like it too long, and that makes it even worse. My "should'ves" are firmly on the shelf... I'm dragging out my "I'm gonna's" now :-)

Krista Phillips said...

Oh, and caregiver burnout IS very very real. I watched it with my mother when my grandparents were living with my parents... it is so hard because you feel this immense sense of responsibility and there are so many needs... but "failing" as a caregiver is just not an option. It's a very hard thing to put into words and explain to someone.

Flossie said...

So I'm probably totally overstepping my blog-follower boundaries here, but I would encourage you to talk to your doctor about some medication to help. We gals often feel like we have to carry the burden alone. I've often heard people say that we should let God take care of it. (To which I would reply that God can choose any type of method to work--who's to say that he can't use medication?) I watched my mother AND my father both battle depression when she was fighting breast cancer, and one of the biggest revelations I had is that it's simply not screened for enough. I think medical providers really need to be more aware that most of the time people won't ask for help but they might be open to accepting it if it's offered to them. Just a thought. Glad to see that things are starting to look up for you and your shell. :)

Krista Phillips said...

You totally aren't overstepping. I've contemplated it a few times throughout this process.

Everyone has their opinions on medication for this. I believe there isn't a "right" or "wrong" answer for it, that it really depends on the person and what they are comfortable with.

For me though, I'm just not there yet. God can definitely use medication, and it's definitely something to pray about. At this point, I think God has gotten me through this far without it... me and Him can keep on truckin'. that isn't to say I won't change my mind in the future though:-)

I HAVE, however, started taking more vitamins. When you're concentrated on your child's health, your own tends to get pushed aside, including healthy eating habits (which I've never been fantastic at anyway.)

It's REALLY helped give me that boost I needed to start the climb back into "sane" land, if you will:-)

speaking of... haven't taken mine for the day. Off to go swallow some (legal, helpful) pills!